Minoru Suzuki is one of those professional wrestlers it’s impossible to forget. The self-proclaimed “King of Pro Wrestling” (proclaimed by others to be “The Man With The Worst Personality In The World”) is a brutal submission and catch wrestling specialist, and currently one of New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s top heels. His sadism and surgical precision makes audiences fear for his opponents, and his showmanship and stage presence makes every match feel important.
On June 23, 2018, days after his fiftieth birthday, Suzuki celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his pro wrestling debut with an outdoor festival in his hometown of Yokohama. The Great Pirate Festival lasted two days and admission was free because, in Suzuki’s words, “as soon as you have people pay, you’re putting in a barrier to entry.” One Piece artist Eiichiro Oda drew a cartoon of Suzuki as a pirate king for the festival poster, another artist painted a mural, and the man of the hour wrestled Kazuchika Okada in the rain in the main event of the wrestling show.
The two wrestled to a thirty minute time limit draw, and Suzuki took the microphone to speak to the crowd:
“It doesn’t matter that I was close, or that I did my best. I didn’t win. (To the kids in the front rows of the crowd) When you go out into the world, you have to win and keep winning. The world isn’t going to cut you a break. Oi, all you dispirited middle aged guys too, I just turned 50! A 30 year old couldn’t beat me today, nobody can! I’m taking everything I want. The IWGP title? I’ve already booked my place. You SOBs thinking of leaving now? That this is done? There’s awesome people to come! This festival’s still got way more in store! And I’m not going to close with that, but with this: Thank you!”
Not everyone who loves and/or fears Minoru Suzuki could make it out to Yokohoma for the festival, but we can take some time to look back on his long and incredible career, which includes mutiple runs in NJPW and Pro Wrestling NOAH, co-founding one of the world’s first MMA promotions, holding All Japan Pro Wrestling‘s Triple Crown Championship twice, and some other freelance projects that might surprise you.